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Holocaust

Gauck addresses Yad Vashem anniversary celebration

German President Joachim Gauck has praised the work of Yad Vashem, Israel's leading institute for the research and commemoration of victims of the Holocaust. The organization celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Gauck honors 60 years of Yad Vashem

In Berlin on Tuesday, the Israeli institute Yad Vashem celebrated its six decades of research and work during an event at the Deutscher Oper (the German opera) in Berlin on Tuesday.

"It is an honor for Germany" to host the anniversary celebration, said German President Joachim Gauck (pictured at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 2012). He praised it for its efforts to ensure that the tragedy of the Holocaust would neither be forgotten, nor repeated.

During his speech to the guests in the German capital, he praised the work of Yad Vashem, which has "given nearly 4 million victims of the Holocaust their names, their biographies and their identities back."

The event also honored the 50th anniversary of Yad Vashem's awarding of the "righteous among the nations" to those people who helped non-Jews during Nazi terror, often at the peril of their own lives. There are roughly 24,000 recipients whose names have been inscribed on plaques which are housed in the garden of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

"The stories of these courageous people have moved me in a very special way," Gauck said.

The German president noted the importance of people and governments worldwide to protect those who face the possibility not only of having their dignity and their rights stripped from them, but also death.

"When faced with suppression and the threat of death, man [always] has a choice," Gauck said.

The German head of state also remarked on Yad Vashem's important work in the context of Germany's troubled history. He noted the difficulty divided Germany experienced between the end of the war and the fall of the Berlin Wall with confronting its troubled past.

"Since that time, the stories of the victims and the survivors have been heard and respected," he said.

In 1996, former German President Roman Herzog proclaimed January 27 the Day of Remembrance for Victims of National Socialism in order to stress the importance of vigilance toward intolerance and hatred. The date was chosen for its significance in Holocaust history. On January 27, 1945 Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest concentration camp where over one million men, women and children were killed.

The United Nations designated the same day in 2006 as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Over six million people perished in concentration camps from forced labor, starvation, disease or extermination. The majority of the victims were Jews. The Nazi regime sent hundreds of thousands of others to their deaths during their reign of terror, whom the state deemed degenerate or a political threat, including the disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, political enemies and members of religious organizations.

kms/ (AFP, dpa)

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